N. Laos to Cambodia: the Journey

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I was picked up from my hotel in Vientiane by a tuk tuk at 6pm Wednesday night- was told 6:30pm. We arrived at the bus station at 6:30pm and was told the bus was at 7pm- not 8:30pm like I thought. We all loaded our backpacks and waited around the bus because the driver seemed like he was ready. I got a steamed bun from a vendor (minced pork and half a hard boiled in inside.) At 8pm the bus driver finally opened the doors to let us on.

The bus was a Winnie the Pooh themed sleeper bus. Short “beds” lined the bus on either side. Each bed was a tiny bit wider than a twin but much shorter, and it was meant for two people. They were all Asian sized. The ceilings were approximately 4′ throughout the whole bus. I shared the first bed with a girl from Denmark- I was D1 and she was D2 but luckily she gave me the aisle because I had to let my feet hang off. The toilet was right next to us, also with a 4′ ceiling, and one worker continuously liked to spray the whole area with baby powder smelling air freshener. The bus workers just had to move their heads slightly sideways to walk through the bus. I was practically walking on my knees.

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We drove for less than 10 minutes then stopped at another bus station. Here we stopped and waited for about 20 minutes while our driver and his three sidekicks ate their sticky rice snack. We then got handed cold pork and mayonnaise toasties and were back on our way.

Laos driving is just as nuts as Thai driving. The bus driver honked non-stop, kept stopping short, never stayed in one lane, almost collided with a few trucks, almost killed a million bikers, and of course to top it off the roads are uneven and unpaved at times. The whole trip we swayed back and forth almost falling out of our beds. I attempted to lay down on my back and my feet almost hit the ceiling. As uncomfortable as it was I hoped to sleep this way because at least I was able to hold myself on the bed for Laos driving. However people kept grabbing my feet when they went to the bathroom so I decided to switch to a sideways position. This way people just kept smacking into my knees. Lose lose situation.

We arrived in Pakse (Southern Laos) at 7am. My body was in so much pain from trying to sleep in the tiny bed, and I felt delusional. But I had to transfer myself to a mini-bus, which was going to take me to me farther south. The bus was scheduled for 7:30am, so we left at 8:30am. The bus was typical. Bumpy, felt like we were off-roading most of the time, and every now and then we stopped in a small village to let a local off.

At 11am we arrived at the ferry port for Doh Dhet. We vacated the bus and those of us that we’re heading to Cambodia exchanged our tickets for new ones. We filled out visa forms and 12 of us piled into a mini-van that could only hold about 7 people. I shot-gunned the front seat right away, but had to share with a local wearing a face mask. The driver sat all the way up and against the wheel. The 8 hour journey to Siem Reap began, or so I thought.

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At the border we got out of the van and crossed on foot with a bunch of cows on tow. I tried to take a selfie with one but he got scared and trotted away. We then boarded another big bus with old fashioned leather seats.

We drove until 1:30pm then stopped and de-boarded again to split into different groups going to different cities. After eating fried rice (the only option,) and waiting for an hour, the Siem Reap group boarded onto the most outdated minivan I’ve ever seen.

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The backpacks were loaded from the trunk and were pushed all the way forward to line the floor. The seats were torn brown leather and a few seats were randomly missing, with just the metal frame in their spots. There were 4 rows with 2 seats up front. The van was meant to hold 14 people but they stuffed 18 in. The seats were on a metal grid and slipped out as people were sitting, causing one Asian lady to fall all the way backwards with her seat onto the man behind. One local guy sat on the missing seat directly on the metal frame. Our feet were up on everyone’s bags, so no leg room whatsoever, but it was worse for the big guy in the back. Supposedly 5 hours like this- we left at 2:35pm.

After 5 minutes of driving we pulled over at a gas station to get gas. We filled up and the driver turned on the van but it wouldn’t start. The old broken down van officially broke. The store at the gas station was a wood furniture store, no food or drinks in sight. We got out and waited while they tried to fix it. No luck, so we unloaded the bags. We then waited for 45min while we thought another van was coming but instead an older man showed up with an older too kit. After 2 min of working he told us to reload the bus, so we did. We pulled out of the gas station at 3:35pm.

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We drove through beautiful landscape and watched the sunset from the window. Palm trees are becoming more frequent which I love. The van randomly slowed down at times and we all freaked out of fear of it breaking again (including the driver,) but luckily it made the trip. We got to the bus station outside Siem Reap at 8pm, with aching backs, butts and legs.

Depart hotel: Wednesday 6pm
Arrive guesthouse: Thursday 8:30pm

Transportation: $50. Visa: $40. Time: forever. Waking up to see Angkor Wat: worth it.

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